CNN SUNDAY MORNING
Interview With Sharif Ali Bin Al-Hussein
Aired August 11, 2002 - 07:19 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to talk more about the stepped-up U.S. discussions to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. As we reported earlier, members of Iraqi opposition groups have held talks with top officials in the Bush administration. One member of the Iraqi opposition group who attended those talks is Sharif Ali Bin Al-Hussein. He joins us now from Washington.
Thank you very much for being with us. What ...
SHARIF ALI BIN AL-HUSSEIN, IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS: Thank you.
COOPER: ... is your assessment of the talks you held on Friday and the discussion yesterday with Vice President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld?
AL-HUSSEIN: Well I think we were very pleased with the level of discussions. Clear to us that the United States is fully committed and serious about implementing its policy of a regime change. We were particularly surprised to see the attendance of General Myers also in the meeting, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
COOPER: The president has said and in fact reiterated yesterday that he has no specific timetable for any possible attack on Iraq. Is that the message you got in your meeting with the vice president?
AL-HUSSEIN: Absolutely. They made it quite clear that no decision on the how and when had been taken, but they also made it clear that they would go all the way and that there was no stopping this policy, that the intention was to bring about regime change in Iraq and establish a democracy because we obviously expressed our fears that in the past maybe Iraqi people have got the wrong message or the United States had not followed through, but that this time there would be no repeats of that.
COOPER: There are critics of the opposition that are out there and up until now the Iraqi opposition really has not had success in promoting change on the ground in Iraq. Why should the U.S. have confidence in you and the other opposition leaders?
AL-HUSSEIN: Well in fact, we have had success. In 1991, three- quarters of the country fell out of the control of the government. It's difficult to be judged on the only scale of success, which is overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime, which is the ultimate victory. But in the meantime, the Iraqi opposition is the most powerful opposition in the Middle East. We have a third of the country liberated, a quarter of the population and we are confident that regime change will happen soon, particularly if the United States does fulfill its promises of helping us.
COOPER: Besides the areas that are protected by allied air power, the Kurdish areas in the north, I mean do you really have any operational capabilities on the ground in Iraq in Baghdad for instance?
AL-HUSSEIN: We have not only operation capability in Iraq, they are actually engaged against the regime, particularly in the south. In Baghdad, we're already heightening our level of alertness inside the city because we expect there to be the main battlefield will be inside Baghdad. So our forces are preparing for an oncoming struggle with the regime.
COOPER: We heard earlier from a correspondent in Baghdad who said that many Iraqi people who she talks to don't -- or say that the Iraqi opposition such as it is does not really have much credibility -- your thoughts on that.
AL-HUSSEIN: Well they would have to say that, wouldn't they? They didn't say that, then they would be tortured and murdered and so would their wives and children, which is the kind of practice with the regime. And so we completely understand their position, and we are acting to liberate them and we have absolutely no doubt that they look forward to the day when this regime will collapse.
COOPER: So what happens now? I mean you've had these talks. It's the highest-level talks Iraqi opposition have had with this administration. Some say they were largely symbolic, nevertheless, they did happen. Where do you go from here?
AL-HUSSEIN: Well we go onto some more detailed consultations with the U.S. government in the future about how the Iraqi opposition and the people in Iraq will participate, not only in regime change, but in the building of future Iraq, an Iraq that is democratic and free and lives in peace and harmony with its neighbors. And we are going to coordinate between ourselves more and hopefully with the U.S. administration.
COOPER: Your -- the Iraqi opposition is several different groups. You're affiliated with the Constitutional Monarchy Movement. Is there any agreement amongst you as to what the vision is for post Saddam Hussein, Iraq is, besides ...
COOPER: ... you say a democratic Iraq, but is there any specific plan?
AL-HUSSEIN: Not only is there a vision between us, but we also -- we're heartened to have here that U.S. administration, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney's statements that the U.S. administration had the same vision for Iraq. We are now in the process of beginning to work out greater details of administrative issues and the transition period post Saddam to an Iraq that believes in freedom and democracy. So there are many practical issues that we are addressing now, both in the period up -- coming -- running up to regime change and the post Saddam era.
COOPER: Well, Sharif Ali Bin Al-Hussein, thank you very much for joining us this morning. I know it's been a very busy weekend for you. We appreciate you spending some time with us.
AL-HUSSEIN: You're welcome.
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